TCEQ leaves several questions about concrete batch plant permitting in East Aldine unanswered

Briana Conner Image
Tuesday, November 15, 2022
Residents worry about concrete batch plant permitting in East Aldine
Residents in East Aldine fight for their health, homes, and the environment as TCEQ decides if quality standards will change for industrial plants.

EAST ALDINE, Texas (KTRK) -- The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is looking at changing the regulations surrounding the air we breathe. This pertains, specifically, to air quality standards industrial plants must meet before they can be built.

People provided their input in East Aldine on Monday night. The backdrop is significant because it's where a controversial new concrete plant was recently approved for construction despite fierce opposition from neighbors.

The frustration with TCEQ is palpable in East Aldine. There are eight noisy, dusty, concrete plants polluting the air in just five square miles near schools, neighborhoods, and parks. A ninth concrete plant got approval over the summer, and there wasn't much anyone could do to stop it. In light of that, people took this opportunity to make sure the commission considers their health, homes, and the environment in the decision-making process.

"For our kindergartners, and our seniors in high school, and our folks taking college courses across the way, how are we going to know to tell them today's a good day to breathe the air?" the first woman who spoke at Monday's meeting asked.

The TCEQ faced tough questions from community members during the second of three meetings across the state. The goal was to get input from people on their standard permitting process. That's how they determine whether and how a concrete batch plant is allowed to operate.

These sites produce concrete, but they also can release pollutants like particulate matter and dust into air and water. For the first time in 10 years, the TCEQ is amending their rules regulating these plants, and they are required to get feedback from the public. There is particular interest in Harris County. There are more than 130 concrete batch plants here, which is more than anywhere else in the state.

People who live near these plants and the pollution were not allowed to make official comments for the record Monday night, but they did have an opportunity to speak with TCEQ representatives during a question and answer period. They asked for new rules that would set standards for how many plants are allowed within a certain area taking into consideration schools, neighborhoods, and parks. They also want more transparency from the agency, including notifications in English and Spanish.

"Unfortunately, there are a lot of questions. More questions than answers. The community is frustrated, mainly around these plants popping up near Black and brown communities. There's a reason these meetings are held here and communities similar to this. You will not see these meetings on the west side, West U, Memorial, or River Oaks, because these issues are not happening there. You do not have a plethora of industrial sources impacting communities," Leticia Gutierrez with AIR Alliance Houston said.

The TCEQ is reviewing how protected people are who live near these plants. A proposed amendment is expected early next year followed by a period for public comment. The earliest new standards on the air we breathe could be implemented is mid 2023.

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